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UFC 249’s Dominick Cruz claims referee Keith Peterson ‘smelled like alcohol and cigarettes’

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“The guy smelled like alcohol and cigarettes so who knows what he was doing?”

Dominick Cruz feels referee Keith Peterson issued an early stoppage in the UFC 249 co-main event and insinuated that the veteran referee was drinking on the job.

Cruz was floored by Henry Cejudo in the third round and stopped with ground-and-pound, but ‘The Dominator’ claims he was fully conscious while trying to get back to his feet and that Peterson made the wrong call in stopping the fight.

“I mean I’m not happy with the stoppage obviously because I specifically asked the ref to let me go ‘til I was out and I was standing up,” Cruz said in his post-fight interview, per MMA Fighting. “If I stayed on the floor, I get it. But I’m working my way up. I was definitely still aware of what was going on. Now I get there were unanswered shots, that’s part of a fight but if I’m standing up to my feet, I’m in the fight. If I’m staying on the floor and continually being chopped down, then I get it.

“But hats off to Henry, I’ve got no excuses. I shouldn’t have gotten caught with that knee the way that I got caught and that’s what put me in that position. But at the same time, I specifically asked the ref to make sure he let me take the shots I needed to and if I’m standing up on my way up, how do I have my balance? I’m getting up. So give me a fighting chance. This is for a world title. This isn’t some backyard fight.”

It was in his second post-fight interview that Cruz complained about Peterson smelling of alcohol and cigarettes.

“You’re rocked. Sometimes you get hit. I’ve been in those positions many, many times though,” Cruz told the UFC’s Megan Olivi. “I had seconds left in the round and I just think that sometimes I wish there was a way to keep these refs a little more responsible sometimes.

“The guy smelled like alcohol and cigarettes so who knows what he was doing? I wish they drug tested them. I know Herb Dean is good. He’s one of the best refs. Immediately when I saw that ref, I was like man is there a way to veto a ref and get a new one? I wonder that. As fighters do we have that choice? I wish we did.”

Following the fight, defending bantamweight champ Cejudo announced his retirement but Cruz plans to carry on fighting for the foreseeable future.

“I could have done the same thing Henry’s doing if I wanted to, you know?” Cruz told Joe Rogan after the bout. “I wanted to finish this fight. I had never been knocked out before. I don’t feel that I was knocked out tonight.

“I feel like I was still in this fight but if the ref stopped it, the ref stopped it. I specifically made sure and told him that I didn’t agree with the stoppage, which a lot of fighters do but my argument is if I’m standing up to my feet how am I knocked out? You can’t be standing up and be knocked out at the same time.”